June 1, 2020
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with travel dates on or after
Due to travel restrictions, plans are only available with effective start dates on or after
Hiking trips may just be Mother Nature’s greatest gift to mankind.
They’re a way to bond with family and friends, to soak in sunshine and fresh air, and to focus on your fitness and well-being.
Hiking trips are also a great way to explore your big back yard or blaze a trail to new destinations.
While you can go to your local park, hop on a trail, and be back home in an hour, anything more than that requires planning and preparation. With that scenario in mind, we’re here to share some tips for ensuring your next hiking trips are safe hiking trips. So, before you hit the road with your favorite walking stick — we call ours Sir Oaken McSmores — review these bits of advice. (And review Allianz Global Assistance travel insurance plans in the event the trailhead greets you with a nasty ankle sprain, lost tent, or some other unexpected twist or turn.)
Hiking is one of those outings where going solo vs. taking a buddy or two can lead to vastly different experiences. Taking hiking trips by your lonesome can be a spiritual getaway — a journey to reconnect with nature taken at your own pace and at a destination of your own choice.
But hiking with old friends, extended family, or new partners can be a revelation — a distraction-free bonding experience without equal.
There is one big consideration to make when you decide whether to go by yourself or make it a group hike: safety.
Taking any trip alone comes with inherent risks to your health and well-being, and hiking trips are not unique here. In fact, while something as seemingly minor as scraping your knee or running out of water can be handled fairly easily in a densely populated area, these can escalate into more serious situations if you’re on your own miles into a hike. For this reason, it’s even more important that solo hikers pack and plan with great care.1 (And it’s yet another reason to choose a travel insurance plan from Allianz Global Assistance. If you don’t have a real hiking buddy, you can have a virtual buddy thanks to 24/7 phone assistance with one of our assistance specialists.)
If you do invite folks to join you on hiking trips, and there are kids in tow, be aware of a few things. First — and this precaution goes for adults, too — start with a short, relatively easy hike to gage your range. And if you don’t make it to the top, the hill 2-mile mark, or other desired endpoint, don’t worry. Don’t push the kiddos too hard. Remember: if you don’t let them chase butterflies or examine every single rock along the way, they may not want to come on the next hike. Know that hiking trips with children are going to take a lot longer than a solo excursion — and then some.
One other potential hiking partner we failed to mention is Fido. Dogs are common sights on the trail and can be great companions to explore. Unlike kids, who may complain more than you like, dogs aren’t able to communicate discomfort or injuries as well. So, be sure to check them over at the beginning and end of each hike. Also, pay close attention to their vaccination records; you never know what you might encounter out on the trail. Finally, something fun: with a little patience, training, and coaxing, that pack on your back can be worn by your dog. Just make sure to pack some water and treats for your four-legged friend, too.2
Packing right for a hike isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition.
Is it a one-day trip or a week-long excursion? Are you climbing toward a snowy summit or trekking under a humid canopy of exotic foliage? And as we covered above, who — if anyone — is hoofing it alongside of you?
For these reasons, we’ll focus on providing some fairly general, yet still critically important tips for packing for hiking trips.
From simple logistics, such as where to park, to more critical queries — “Am I experienced enough for this trail?” — doing your research before hiking trips cannot be underestimated.
While the first question will require some simple Googling, we can help with the second one right now. According to the American Hiking Society, the following trail ratings can guide your choice of what’s a good fit for you (and your group):
Ratings are just part of assessing whether a hike is well suited for you. Even an “Easy” hike can be a struggle is this is your first time — especially if you’re trekking multiple miles. Additionally, a short high-altitude hike can feel like a marathon; know that above 8,000 feet, altitude sickness is a real threat.
This homework phase also involves investigative work such as being aware of local wildlife, knowing all possible weather conditions (and dressing accordingly), and also boning up on any local restrictions and regulations. Be able to answer these questions: are you sure you’re not blazing a trail through private property? What’s the best way to contact a ranger or other resource if you need assistance? Are there park alerts that can inform you if certain trails are closed or there’s a risk for wildfires?1
With the right plan for your hiking trips, the actual hike should be a breeze. Plan in plenty of breaks to hydrate, check for ticks, and soak in Mother Nature. And in the same way you don’t want to stray off the trail, be wary of straying from your plan unless you have a good reason to ensure the safety of everyone in your group. Happy trails!